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NHL, NHLPA Set to Meet with Mediators – Again

The NHL and the NHLPA are going back to secretive locations and mediation with plans to resume talks on Wednesday. US federal mediators Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney will sit in once more. The pair last sat in on negotiations at the end of November.

The players’ union spent most of last week pushing to bring the mediators back to the process and the NHL looks to have finally agreed.

So far, it looks like the best arrangement has been when the players and the owners met directly without Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman. Unfortunately, those talks collapsed entirely with a sense of ill will after Fehr perhaps pre-emptively announced that the two sides were really close to a deal. Bettman took the opportunity to once again squash the will of the union and things were back to square one.

The league recently announced the scrapping of more games and fans are turning their backs on the possibility of a season, but the NHL and the NHLPA are still primed to meet to hammer something out.

So where do things stand? There is good news in the fact that the NHL has agreed to go further in the NHLPA’s direction with the much-discussed “make whole” provision. The league will pony up $300 million, $89 million more than what was previously discussed.

The NHLPA, meanwhile, has gone the league’s way by agreeing to consider contract limits and a longer CBA.

When the mediators jump in to this round of discussions, there’s a lot more to work with and a lot more reason to be optimistic for those who’re still holding on to some possibility of a season.

For the most part, though, history tells us that non-binding mediation doesn’t necessarily lead to solutions. Both the NFL and NBA used it without success in their negotiations and last week Bettman expressed his own leanings.

“We’re not interested in mediation,” he said Thursday. “We went through it a week and a half ago. It was of no value because of the position of the parties. When the mediators weren’t available this week, we did what we felt was our own informal mediation in terms of trying to move the process forward, giving where we could.”

The position of the parties may have changed, though, and the ground the two sides have to cover has changed somewhat. They’re still what I would term as “far apart” on some issues, but there’s a sliver of hope that’s worth clinging to for those into that sort of thing. As for the rest of us, we’ll see what happens.

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